healthstories2016

We've rounded up the biggest health stories that directly affected Canadians in 2016.

1. Assisted dying became law
Providing medical assistance to people who choose to die, with certain restrictions and safeguards, became legal in Canada in June. By fall, more than 100 Canadians took advantage of the new law and chose to die with medical assistance.

READ MORE: Assisted Dying in Canada: One Woman's Story

2. Smoking pot recreationally will soon be legal
A federal task force recommended in December that Canadians over the age of 18 should be able to buy marijuana legally for recreational use from licensed retail dispensaries or by mail order—or even to grow a small amount for their own use. That includes buying or carrying 30 grams of marijuana for personal use and growing up to four plants at home.

It's expected that it will take provinces until 2019 to determine how and where to make cannabis available at retail outlets.

Tens of thousands of Canadians already use marijuana for medical reasons, such as chronic pain, but prescriptions are required and the drug can only be purchased by mail from licensed producers.

READ MORE: Talk To Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis 

3. MS treatment breakthrough
Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa reported they'd developed a stunning new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS)—a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy that rebuilds the patient's immune system almost from scratch.

Results published in The Lancet showed that completely wiping out the immune system and then regenerating a new one with blood stem cells can eliminate all signs of damaging brain inflammation and reverse the disease in some people with early, aggressive (MS)—about one in 20—and bring about lasting recovery.

The clinical trial included 24 participants who were followed for up to 13 years.

4. Opiod epidemic
Health care and justice system representatives met in Calgary in October to deal with Canada's opiod epidemic. It's been reported that thousands of Canadians have died as a result of fentanyl overdose.

Pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl is 100 times more toxic than morphine and there's not much difference in the amount of the drug that can provide a euphoric high and the amount that can kill. A kind of fentanyl called carfentanil is even deadlier. Canada is reported to be the second-highest opioid consumer in the world, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

5. Gord Downie's gliobastoma
Canadians learned about the killer brain cancer when the Tragically Hip lead singer and song writer was diagnosed with the disease in May. Soon after the announcement, the band embarked on an iconic cross-country tour, accompanied by Downie's neuro-oncologist. The prognosis for glioblastoma patients is poor, with most living less than two years after diagnosis. Millions of dollars for research and development of new treatments have been donated to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Research at Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre since the announcement of Downie's illness.

READ MORE: Canada Bids Farewell To Gord Downie & The Tragically Hip

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